By Victor Mikhailov
The exhibition, called Teacher and His Pupils, reflects not only the huge legacy of a famous painter, but also exposes those rich traditions that have been strengthened by students of the master.
Pavel Maslenikov is one of the most famous Belarusian masters of landscape painting and scenic painting of the 20th century. Scenic painter, landscape artist, art historian and teacher and supporter of classical traditions in art, he lived by the process of creativity, appreciated skills and professionalism. The work of the Honoured Figure of Arts of BSSR, People’s Artist of Belarus, PhD of Arts, Associate Professor, laureate of the State Award of Belarus, Pavel Maslenikov was equally focused on creating a national theatre culture and the development of Belarusian arts.
The current exhibition features more than fifty paintings of the master from the collection of the National Art Museum of Belarus, the Mogilev Regional Art Museum of Pavel Maslenikov and the late artist’s family. Landscapes created by Pavel Maslenikov from the late 1940s to the early 1990s depict native nature which was close to his heart. The artist does not offer any unusual visual images, but everyone wants to stare endlessly at them, to admire the colours. Picturesque distances, soft lines, the slow pace of colour transitions. The contact with beauty in its highest manifestation is felt again and again, when the aesthetic merges with the ethical ideal. Beauty interflows with the good. Semantic foundation of a landscape, inscribed in the visual, stems from the experience of life, absorbing all its wisdom.
Despite the large service and public workload, Pavel Maslenikov practiced and perfected his skill of a painter on a daily basis. With an easel on his shoulder, he walked and toured many countries: India, Nepal, Finland, Sweden, the Carpathian Mountains of Altai, the Baltics, the Crimea and the Volga River area, Italy, France and Egypt... And, of course, all corners of his native Belarus. He created a landscape chronicle of his travels. His works stand out with a romantic mood, a realistic reflection of nature.
It becomes evident when one observes them at the exhibition, that his paintings cover all possible landscapes: urban, architectural, marine, industrial, historical. One feels that the artist’s canvases reproduce the nature which is close to his heart. Feelings, especially the concept of the universe and life, are expressed through his landscapes. Pictures like Flax in Bloom, On Naroch, Winter in Belarus and many others, were painted directly from nature.
It is possible to see the reflection of spiritual life in thematic canvases like Last, Road of Death, Harvest, Year of 1929 and On the Victory Day. His pictures surprise with their subtlety of painting and their ability to identify the rich nature of poetic feeling. During the last years of his life, Pavel Maslenikov worked on a series called Native Land. It consists of several landscapes (also exhibited at the exhibition), which truthfully and convincingly convey the beauty of the Fatherland. In the landscape Tunes of Summer, which Leaves there is admiration for the beauty of nature and the sadness that summer ends, and In the Early Spring contains the joy of spring awakening.
Summarising his creative life, Pavel Maslenikov wrote, “The long journey of an artist’s ascension into professional, creative life passes in the depths of the social life of people, in the infinite richness of his spiritual life, the spiritual union of nations.”
He left us a rich artistic heritage. The artist determined the fate of most of his works during his lifetime. He donated about 140 pictures, sketches of scenery and costumes to the Mogilev Regional Art Museum and the city of Mogilev, near to where he was born and spent his school years. And he returned there once again, giving fellow citizens his pictures, where he created unique, enchanting images of his native land, his own special world where reality is intertwined with poetry, painting filled with musicality, and expression approaching theatricality.
During his teaching years at the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute, Pavel Maslenikov trained more than a generation of students who subsequently found their own ways, and became worthy successors to their teacher in the national art. The current exhibition also features works by eleven well known Belarusian artists: Valentina Bartlova, Tamara Vlasyuk, Yevgeny Zhdan, Galina Krivoblotskaya, Alla Nepochelovich, Mikhail Romanyuk, Sergey Solokhin, Natalia Sukhoverkhova, Yevgenia Shuneiko and Margarita Schemeleva. The work of each of them is different, containing their distinct personality, beginning with the selection of the type of art in which they prefer to work, and ending with a personal vision of the world, interpreted in their works. However, one thing binds them all — they were lucky enough to learn from the master, who planted in each of them, a grain of creativity.